Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

Posts tagged ‘love’

Guest post: To The People Who Laughed

You probably don’t even remember me, but you were the reason I cried myself to sleep that night. You probably can’t even remember what I look like, but I remember how you made us feel. I felt so embarrassed and humiliated that I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. I’m a grown woman, but I wanted to hide myself in a corner and cry. I hope your little moment of amusement was worth it.

We’d had a lovely evening, until we happened upon you. We laughed and chatted with the waiter between courses as we enjoyed a relaxed, romantic meal together on the first evening of our holiday. We held hands and gazed into one another’s eyes as we relished the time alone together; time to relax away from work, and home, and family, and all of the pressures of modern life. We smiled at one another when the waiter addressed us as “ladies”, having the courtesy to correctly gender my partner despite it being obvious she’s in the early stages of transition from male to female.

Transgender. That’s what my partner is. She’s someone who, having been assigned male at birth, spent many years of her life struggling with the feeling that she was being forced to live in a gender she wasn’t comfortable in. Someone who, after having been forced to conform to society’s expectations of how a boy – and then a man – should think, feel and behave, found the courage to be true to herself. It’s nothing to do with her sexual preference, a traumatic childhood or some kinky fetish, it’s who she is.

Stop and think for a moment, you two gentlemen who laughed at us as we were minding our own business. Stop and think how comfortable you would feel stepping out of your front door in a dress, make up and heels. Imagine how it feels to feel that you have no choice but to put yourself out there, in public, with a man’s face and body dressed in women’s clothing. Contemplate how awkward, lonely and potentially dangerous every single mundane task becomes when you have to expose you innermost self in such a public manner, and when you have to dare to be different.  Can you even begin to imagine how crushing it must feel, having tried so hard to look passable and found the courage to face complete strangers dressed in a way that makes you feel both vulnerable and conspicuous, to be laughed at in public by fellow adults? I say “adults”, but really you two were like children in a schoolyard. Children who pick on a child for having the ‘wrong’ trainers, or whose physical abilities are different from yours, or who doesn’t generally conform to your expectations of how other people should be. Please think about what you did: You reduced a grown woman (me) to tears, you tainted our whole evening with your cruelty and you knocked the confidence of two people who’ve spent a very long time trying to develop what little confidence they have. I hope your little joke was worth it.

Perhaps you’ll feel less ashamed or even vindicated when you hear that you weren’t the only people to treat us so badly. Perhaps you’d try to justify your behaviour if you knew that are others out there with similar prejudices, and a similar lack of respect for feelings of others.  Your contemptible behaviour was amateur compared to what we experienced the following evening, when a family of six fellow diners in a restaurant not only mocked us, but took and shared photos for one another to laugh at. Good work, people. This is the monster that a culture of laughing at people who are different creates.

The strength and courage my partner shows on a daily basis amazes me. She faces the same fears, the same prejudices and the same humiliation every day. Every. Single. Day. And yet with each new day, she puts on a brave (and beautifully made-up – I like to take the credit for her excellent make up skills) face and does it all over again. Why does she do it? Because after forty years of feeling forced to pretend to be someone she’s not, she’s finally free to relax and be herself in a way you and I probably take for granted.

She’s brave, my beautiful girl. She’s brave, and funny, and wise, and kind. She shows a generosity of spirit that you so clearly lack; a tolerance and respect for others that you would do well to learn from. She’s not asking for your approval or for your support. She’s simply asking for the respect we all owe to one another; she’s asking to be left to go about her life without being humiliated in public and treated like a freak show. She might, in your eyes, be a man in women’s clothes. She might be different to anyone else you know, and she might have made choices in her life that you cannot even begin to understand. She might be all of those things, but she’s not a coward or a bully, and so I’d rather be her than you any day of the week.

Signed,

Me

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Contentment

In the dark I hear your breathing; calm, soft and deep. I hear your quiet murmurs as you dream. Your small body, heavy with sleep, is nestled against mine and I curl protectively around you as you stir. I lay a soothing hand on your chest; your small hand clutches at mine, gripping tightly then loosening as you trustingly relax back into sleep.

You are warm. You are safe. You are loved.

Motherhood from a different perspective

I started this blog intending to talk about mental health and being a mum, but today I want to chat about motherhood from a different perspective – that of a daughter. I want to tell you about my mum.

Today is her birthday. I won’t tell you how old she is, although if you were in the restaurant at lunchtime you’ll have heard DD shriek “Nana you’re XX years old now!” at the top of her voice. Luckily Mum has a sense of humour! Mum is very much the matriarch of the family and it was lovely seeing how happy she was having us all together for her day.

My mum’s a pretty awesome lady. When I was born she was a nurse; by the time my younger sister was born she had turned down the post of Matron and left the profession to look after us. When my sister started playschool they needed extra help so my mum volunteered. Within a short space of time she was running it and doing so extremely competently. Mum kept the household going through the recession of the 1980s, when the interest rates on the mortgage became so high that some weeks there was only a few pounds for food despite my dad working full-time and gigging in the evenings to bring in extra money.

When my sister and I were both at school Mum started going to evening classes and gained an A-level in English, which meant that she could fulfil a long-held dream and train as a teacher. For the next 4 years she studied full-time, did exams and teaching practices, ran a Brownie pack and kept us all fed and clothed. Not only that but I never once felt that she was absent or that she wasn’t there when I needed her; I never felt that we were missing out in any way.

Mum qualified as a teacher when I was 14 and is still teaching now. And it’s only now, as a mother myself, that I can appreciate how incredibly hard those years must have been for her. How torn she must have felt, how difficult it must have been studying full-time as well as running a house and family (with 2 daughters who had lots of extra-curricular activities) and how hard she must have worked.

Mum is my inspiration. When I feel low, when I’m worrying about finding work once the children are in school, when I fret that I’ve lost my chance at a good career – that’s when I remember what my mum did and how well she did it. And I take a deep breath and vow that I can do it too, I can be strong and dedicated as well. Looking at what my mum has achieved gives me hope that I can do the same.

Happy birthday Mum – I love you.

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